Posts Tagged ‘hitchhiking’

Nicaragua:  42/70

I stayed at two farms in Nicaragua and traveled a lot all over. One place was Matagalpa (a bigger city of about 600K) in the middle of the country. Another was San Antonio De Upa, a tiny hamlet (population 30? Maybe?) that you hike 8K from the bus stop to get to and is off the grid. Jinotega (180K population) is just north of Matagalpa.

I left here and went to Jinotega to another farm which was closer to a town (hitch-hiking is the preferred method of transportation of getting to/from towns) which is a blessing and a curse. You get access to bakery shops(!!!!) but you are also closer to more people (potential zombies). Being at the Biosfera the land, forest and natural springs were magical and I felt connected with the land. It was also pretty high up on a hill and semi-tucked away. The highway was right at the end of the driveway, so you never felt totally isolated. (again, blessing and a curse for the zombie apocalypse).

*note: if you’re a coffee drinker, this is the place to be! Actually, this is one of the places that Starbucks gets their coffee.

Leon, Nicaragua is great place to settle for a few days as it’s very close to beautiful beaches, volcanoes (that you can sled down!), public markets and lots of people to socialize with. (the locals are incredibly friendly and most people speak English in the bigger cities).

For being the second poorest country in the western hemisphere I stuffed myself silly (on zombie-apocalypse day) for 5$. Also, being the second safest means that I will most definitely be returning to Nicaragua soon.

LOCATION: 8/10

Nicaragua has many different climates all within a few miles of each other. You can be in a sweltering hot city in the middle of Leon and drive 20 minutes and be on a gorgeous beach. Or drive 20 minutes the other direction and be in the coffee plantation mountains.

Lots of places to hide away and get away, with paved roads and easy access to more populated (read: better equipped) areas.

WATER: 8/10

There are natural springs everywhere. Drinking the tap water, though, you need to be careful as it’s unknown where that water is coming from. Bring some iodine or find a spring.

FOOD: 7/10

If you like rice and beans, you’re in luck! If you like veggies, the market is your friend. (requires a trip to a high-populated area). If you need meat- you also won’t have a problem, but refrigeration is an issue (as is electricity in general.) but if you can find other people to share a chicken/cow with, then again, you won’t have an issue with food here.

LODGING: 2/10

Most of the houses here are pretty rustic unless you happen to find a really wealthy person who reinforced their house with concrete/sand bag foundations. Keeping out the elements isn’t the problem—but keeping out a hungry hoard would be.

COSTCO/SUPPLIES: 1/10

In all my travels I couldn’t find a general warehouse of goods. There are plenty of little shops- but you would have to know where to go/what you’re looking for (as the signage isn’t really well laid out/labeled). I’m also not really sure what the gun situation is, but only the bank-guards seemed to have them (that I saw).

NON-DEAD DANGERS: 7/10

The worst issue that I had were mosquitos and/or fleas—and even that was limited by comparison to other countries that I have visited. Other issues would be earthquakes or mud-slides during the wet-season.

Being on organic farms, however, I was told that the bigger problems were the locals using pesticides and those chemicals leaking into the water supply/other crops/land. This could have long-term health problems…. But I won’t get into that here. (we’re just thinking about surviving zombies, afterall.)

LOCALS/CULTURE: 9/10

Hands down, the nicest people I have met in Central America so far were the Nicos. Very polite! So thankful/appreciative that I was there! They were patient with my (abysmal) Spanish and giggled internally when I resorted to miming what I wanted. Besides being overly friendly (trying to pick me up), I loved my time here.

I think I’m in love with Nicaragua. The people, the atmosphere, the climate, the culture…. The sheer niceness of people just blows me away. Things that people do- when they don’t have to. I mean, why help the fluffy-haired gringa? When would that ever be a good thing to do?

I was reminded of this story from my college days where I sublet a room the summer. I needed a desk, so I bought one off craigslist, wheeled it down Boylston Ave and then it started raining… I ran faster with it, breaking off a wheel. When I got close to the apartment, I yelled out to my new roommates to help me, but they didn’t budge. Just sat on the stoop smoking cigarettes. I found out later that “where they come from” they –WERE- helping me by moving. (That is “helping” where they come from).

In Nicaragua I have had quite the opposite experience and I want to share my day yesterday:

I woke up early and, like every morning for a while, I went running around 7:30am. I ran up the mountain for about 20-25 minutes, then down. On the way down the mountain, I stumbled and fell right outside this pulperia (shop). Some old men saw me and rushed over to make sure I was ok. After I assured them I was fine, they offered me some coffee (that they, no doubt, grew/harvested/dried/ground themselves…. The best kind, IMO). I declined because I still had a mile or so to go.

Later that day, my friend Elyna and I left. We decided to hitch-hike from Jinotega to Sabaco. We stuck out our thumb and instantly a guy in a blue truck stopped. He told us he could only take us down 15K. We agreed anyway and hopped in the back. (note: the bus takes 2 hours to go 45km… so it’s better to hitch).  After a really fast ride, we hopped out and stuck out our thumbs again and got a semi-truck to stop. He opened up the back and we rode in the back of an empty semi-truck for the rest of the way.

Once we arrived in Sabaco, we ate (an amazing plate of chicken, rice, potatoes, plantains and a drink for 2.50$USD) we found a bus to take us to Esteli. That’s when we looked at a map and figured out that Esteli is NO WHERE NEAR Leon (where we both wanted to go. Elyna was trying to go north anyway, so she got on another bus to go north (to Honduras) and I hitched back down to San Isidro.

I should note: My Spanish is elementary at best. I can half communicate with a 3 yr-old, which I’ll talk about later.

So when I was hitching, this guy kept saying “ares moy mimosa” (it wasn’t until later that I figured out he was calling me beautiful (Eres muy Hermosa)… stupid accents). I just giggled and made faces or rode in silence. 30 minutes later, we arrived and he dropped me off at the bus station. I tried to pay him some money (for letting me ride in the cab and dealing with my piss-poor Spanish, but he wouldn’t even consider it. He told me to hurry (well, ok.. he just talked really fast and pointed) and I got on a bus where I sat next to a girl holding a chicken and took out my knitting needles and continued to knit my much-needed-belt. All these kids stared at me… in awe. I was, hands down, the most entertaining thing on the bus. I kept pointing to things outside (cows, chickens, goats, horses) and saying stuff like “el perro va woof!” and they would say “no! bow bow”.  “El Vaca va mooooooo!” and the kid would go “mawwww”. It was downright adorable/entertaining for all.

 

Why am I telling you all this?

Because most of the world things of third world countries as dangerous. They think that all these people living in “poverty” are crooks, criminals, thieves, rapists, murderers, or some other negative and awful words. I have found the complete opposite. In the states, we have a very “dog eat dog” mentality. In Central America (especially in Nicaragua) they do things that are kind. Simple things mean more to these people than anything else.

Also, fun fact, Nicaragua is considered the 2nd safest country in the western hemisphere (next to Canada.)

I have been on 2 farms in the past 2 weeks and here is what I have done:

1)   I am a fan of hitchhiking as I have done it a lot lately. I also really like riding in the back of trucks with 300+ lbs of beans/rice/corn/whatever.

2)   The first farm I was on was an all-organic farm about 8K from the bus stop. Hiking that in the dark was a little scary, but the stars (and lack of light at all) made the journey well worth it! The mist over that farm, when it was raining, was out of this world beautiful. Seeing clouds swallow mountains is breath taking!

3)   This farm was also off the electrical grid. As cool as the bio-digestor (goggle it!) is, it doesn’t keep a flame all that well and very constantly. Most of my meals had to be cooked over a wood flame (I now kick ass at starting fires… but keeping them going is another story). My machete accuracy is also improving, as I had to chop all my own firewood. However, I got sick of just eating beans and rice with no spices.  Also, it became more and more difficult to cook food as all the wood was wet (from the days and days of constant rain). Finally (after 6 days of not talking to a single person, a lot of reading and a lot of arguments with myself) a girl (Elyna) showed up! I quickly realized that I was a little miserable at that farm. She suggested that we leave– so we did!

4)   We both arrived at “The Biosphere” (another organic farm), but it’s more of a family who all lives and grows and eats here. The energy (if you believe in that sort of thing) is excellent and I feel cozy! (Read: I don’t feel like I’m in a 3rd world country). The other night we watched Princess Bride while eating popcorn. The only thing that was missing was hot-cocoa (which we’ll make tonight once we get more dolce) out of hand-picked cocao. They have a kitten who sleeps on my bed every night which makes me miss my whore, but having a decent kitchen/volunteer facilities makes it worth it. They also have a duck who likes to “run laps” on the roof at 5:30am. (I think she’s practicing her take off and landings.) I’ll be here for the 21st (they’re having a big festival for the end of the world) and then I’ll move on to Leon w/ Elyna (if we’re all still here).

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Here is are some of the random things that I have learned:

1)   If you cut a log/branch for firewood (with a machete), stand the branch up and hack at an angle, turn the branch, hack again, turn the branch, hack again… (Rinse and repeat until you get some grooves/wedges and/or can snap it.)

2)   Fried green bananas are pretty damn tasty. Also, there are about a thousand different varieties of bananas. I really like the small super-sweet ones. J I wonder if I’ll ever eat Dole bananas again.

3)   To milk a goat or a cow, you use the same technique; it’s just that one utter is bigger than the other.

4)   You don’t need baking soda/powder for tortillas. In fact, I prefer it without.

5)   Malanga is probably the best food I’ve eaten here so far. It’s a root that grows in swampy-areas with big full “cow-hoof” leaves. It tastes like a buttered potato, slightly sweeter and a more creamy texture. If it weren’t so high in carbs I would eat it with every meal.

6)   The mountains of Nicaragua are breath taking! Especially after it rains and you are high up in the cloud.

7)   With all the different places I’ve been working at, I’m slowly, but surely, keeping a list of what I like/dislike in Bosses, management styles, what kind of team I like to work with, what kind of work I excel at vs what is difficult for me, how I would lead a team/project differently, how to be more efficient, etc. This isn’t really interesting to anyone BUT me, but I thought I would mention it as this is something I’ve spent a great deal of time figuring out lately.